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The universal acceptability of sex toys – what impact can they have on your relationship?

In 2017, Burger King outlets in Israel took the world by storm by giving out free sex toys with the purchase of a burger on St. Valentine’s Day. The toys were added to a meal deal and sold throughout Israeli branches after 6 pm in the evening. The concept was to replicate the days of old when meals were given to children with a free (and usually ghastly) cheap plastic toy but these definitely were not being aimed at the under 18s. Why should kids have all the fun?

The meal box contained two Whoppers (no, this is not a euphemism), two packs of fries, two beers and an unspecified sex toy. It would seem from customers that took advantage of the promotion that the toys ranged from a head-massager to an eye mask or a feather duster so not quite the excitement that some diners were hoping for.

Burger King was hoping to cash in on the ladies who spout the mantra, ‘fries before guys’ but in all seriousness, you might think twice about a guy who thought Burger King was a special culinary destination for your February 14th celebrations and revise your dating preferences accordingly.

What this gimmick demonstrates is the increasing universality of sex toys in modern, 21st-century culture.

They have undoubtedly been made popular through their portrayal in television classics like ‘Sex in the City’ and film successes like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and research suggests that the taboo which has always seemed to surround sex toys, is gradually fading.

Sex toys used to have an association with both loneliness and inadequacy and this residue still clings on to some extent. But in these more open times, people are far more expressive and upfront about their desires and not afraid to vocalise them. Discussing pleasure and enjoying sex has moved from the repressive years of mid last century through the sexual or should we say female revolution to a time when it is okay to talk about what you want and how you want to get it. In simple terms, increasing and enhancing pleasure which is what sex toys are supposed to do, will normally uptick anyone’s enjoyment but what impact does it have on an actual relationship?

A recent study led by a researcher, Michael Reece, in the States, found that there were some interesting results based on gender. In his stats, men who had used a sex toy with their female partners actually reported lower levels of sexual satisfaction than men who had never tried them. Is this because there is some sort of sense of de-masculinisation or that men just feel emasculated by the presence of a sex toy in the bedroom? The survey rather frustratingly did not speculate or shed any light on the reason for this and it rather begs the question of whether the men surveyed were already experiencing a low level of satisfaction anyway to which the presence of a sex toy made little difference. But there is a sneaking suspicion that the use of a sex toy does impact on the male prowess. This is a frequent belief but there are others associated with the use of sex toys and not just confined to men.

Some common perceptions, beliefs and hard facts surrounding the use of sex toys

  • One partner and this is not gender-specific may feel that use of a sex toy might end up distorting their relationship, that there could be an over-reliance on it and that they will be in some way displaced or even replaced
  • Men who regularly use vibrators on themselves or their partners seemed more likely to keep ED – Erectile Dysfunction – at bay and maintain good levels of sexual desire and sexual satisfaction than men who have never used a vibrator – the old classic of ‘use it or lose it’
  • Gay and bisexual men use vibrators and sex toys more frequently than heterosexual men
  • Women who are bi or bi-curious have a higher sex toy usage than those who are strictly straight down the line. One survey revealed that 86% of women having sex with other women report sex toy usage and also increased levels of sexual satisfaction compared to 53% of heterosexual women
  • Couples who are more experimental in the bedroom and happy to use sex toys seem to score more highly when it comes to maintaining passion and intimacy in longer-term relationships. The use of sex toys is not the isolating factor, there is a broader landscape here of date nights, taking showers and baths together and trying out new positions in bed

Using a sex toy can enhance your relationship but it needs to be introduced thoughtfully and carefully to avoid the pitfalls of miscommunication and misunderstanding which can ultimately lead to conflict. It’s about understanding partner preferences, respecting boundaries even if you don’t share them and being sensitive and non-judgemental about your partner’s most intimate wishes and desires. Sometimes it just comes down to good old-fashioned education.

How many men still hold the belief (or should that be myth) that women orgasm through penile stimulation alone? In fact, most women don’t and that one fact alone is a great opener for a conversation about introducing sex toys and the joys of clitoral vibrators and the rest. Also, sex toys don’t have to be one-sided and it is important to position them (pun definitely intended) as a joint or collective enhancement.

A partner who is attentive and puts your desires before their own is more likely to be open to a conversation about the concept of sex toys. They are less likely to feel threatened too. Don’t assume that it is only a man who can feel threatened by that funky, brightly coloured silicone purchase. Women can worry that the focus in the bedroom will become more about that than the actual physical act.

It’s really important that whoever introduces the conversation about sex toys makes it clear that this is in no way a reflection on desirability, sexual prowess, virility or satisfaction levels otherwise it really could leave a bad taste in your mouth, literally.

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